Redesigned, revised and re-engineered under the bonnet, the fifth generation Seat Ibiza hits UK roads.
Britain is the third biggest market for Seat in Europe with just under 2pc of share but the Ibiza takes 3.5pc in its sector and last year its 125 UK dealers sold more than 19,000, over half of all Seat models.
Since it was launched in 1984 there have been over 250,000 Seat Ibiza’s registered in Britain and the arrival of the latest model is expected to push it over 20,000 registrations in a full year to its highest ever, with 68pc going to private buyers.
Refreshed outside and in, with double the glovebox size as part of the fascia revamp which has also seen subtle instrument changes, the main change is under bonnet where two new engines have been added, a 105ps 1.2 TSI petrol and 105ps 1.6 TDI.
The most popular bodystyle is the three-door SC at 44pc but it’s a very slender choice over the 5door at 43pc, while the semi-estate ST five-door accounts for just 13pc. There are four trim levels, E, S A/C, SE and FR, and for MY13 the Ibiza ST is available in the FR trim.
Seat believe that its revised range will see 75pc of sales led by the petrol models, with SE being the most popular trim level and the 85ps 1.4 will dominate with an anticipated 60pc these. It is helped by the fact that 38pc of Ibiza owners buy another at change-over time. The new engine and powertrain range sees average CO2 emissions of 119gkm with their lower economy and taxation benefits, particularly if it’s a company car.
The 1.2 TDI CR Ecomotive produces just 92gkm even in its ST form. In all there are five petrol units: 1.2 with 60 or 70ps outputs, 85ps 1.4, turbo-charged 105ps 1.2 TSI and 150ps 1.4 TSI. Diesel derivatives run from the 75ps 1.2 TDI, with the 105ps 1.6 TDI and onto the 143ps 2.0 TDI with most fitted with five-speed manual boxes.
However, a sophisticated seven-speed DSG-auto transmission is optional with the 105ps 1.2 TSI and standard on the 150ps 1.4 TSI and only the 143ps 2.0 TDI gets a six-speed manual. Insurance groups span the list from 3E to 22E.
The new combination of models means that for the first time FR trim is available in the ST bodystyle, so creating a small sporting estate.
It has a very low rear lip over which to lift items and with five-seats used it provides a good 430 litres of space, gradually rising to 1,164 litres wih the rear seats almost flat and it can tow up to 1,200KG depending on model. Prices for the Ibiza SC models run from £9,995 to £16,340, the 5DR £11,430 to £16,840 and the ST versions are £12,140 rising to £17,085.
Existing Ibiza owners may not be entirely happy when they realise their ‘new’ version launched this month may be less well equipped than the former fourth generation models. Seat has cut some prices but its not exactly like for like and specifications have changed in some cases so you may have to pay more than list price to get the same features you currently enjoy.
That does, however, mean you have some bargaining room with the dealer to get more features for your model or rethink the replacement and look elsewhere.
We tested three of the new models, the ST in SE trim with 1.4 85ps engine, an SC with the S A/C level and 70ps 1.2 three-cylinder engine and 5dr SE 1.2 TSI 105ps with DSG-auto box. All performed very well over a repeated route of about 50 miles taking in main and secondary roads as well as short pieces of dual carriageway.
The 85ps 1.4 indicated 42.5mpg overall and the ST body gave it a really practical nature and despite being a semi-estate the ride was good when lightly laden. The more stylish SC three-door demanded some agility in climbing into the back seats and once there the legroom was short for anyone other than a young teenager.
From the driver’s viewpoint however the three-cylinder engine was surprisingly smooth and without an in-built computer we could not verify its indicated 52mpg combined consumption but would realistically expect it to be in the high 40s.
For anyone looking at a small automatic, the 105ps 1.2 DSG as tested in the 5DR would be a reasonably good choice and it’s economy was steadily rising over the route and finished at an indicated 42.5mpg. The 5DR is probably the most useful for a family which does not need an estate capability and it still has a good bootspace.
All the MY13 Ibiza models had a good, generally absorbent ride, with better handling on bigger wheels and tyres, and the major controls were effortless in action.
There is no doubt the fifth generation Ibiza is a sharper looking series than previous models and now it has a wider appeal than before as well, providing you can negotiate a good package and not over pay for options which were previously available as standard.